Top 10 Best Themed Disney World Restaurants


Every restaurant at Walt Disney World has its own unique theme and backstory, so ranking the top 10 best themed Walt Disney World table service restaurants is no easy task. Some restaurants are more subtle in their theming, conveying their Imagineered backstory through barely-noticeable props and photos on the wall. Others offer something unique that isn’t necessarily a part of any elaborate backstory, but is simply an element that makes the experience more entertaining than your average restaurant. In the most extreme examples, the theme and story are abundantly clear, as the restaurant puts the guests on what could pass as a movie set, making them a part of the action.

Of course, even at Walt Disney World where show and story reign supreme, a good themed restaurant also must have good food. After all, it is a restaurant! Our list takes a highly unscientific approach to ranking these restaurants. Since this is a list ranking restaurants based upon theme, and because we think a well-executed theme is more important in the theme park environments of Walt Disney World than it is in the real world, we weigh the theme more heavily than the cuisine. Restaurants with food that borders on inedible don’t make our list, but merely “decent” food will drop a restaurant’s ranking, but not bump it completely from the list.

Our rationale for putting so much weight on theme? Weeks after you visit a Walt Disney World restaurant, your kids probably won’t be raving over one burger they had versus another, demanding that you phone Zagat immediately. However, they may light up when talking about the time they ate in a classic car outside at night while watching sci-fi movies when it was actually daytime in the “real” outside!

Top 10

Here are our rankings along with a brief synopsis of each restaurant. Click the links within the synopses to read our full reviews of each restaurant. All of these restaurants participate in the Disney Dining Plan.

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10. Beaches & Cream - It seems like Beaches & Cream finds itself on every top 10 list we make for Disney Dining. What can I say–we love the place. It combines a charming, bygone-era soda shop with great food and cheap prices. What’s not to love?! The theme here is fun and well-executed, but it’s those latter two variables (great food and cheap prices) that separates Beaches & Cream from the pack to give it the last spot on our list.

9. Garden Grill – This is the lone character meal that makes the list, and its presence has nothing to do with characters (character meals are a different category–check out our list of the Top Character Meals on the Disney Dining Plan). Instead, Garden Grill makes the list because it rotates and offers views into Livin’ with the Land during the meal. It also serves some of our favorite cuisine at any ‘all you care to enjoy’ restaurant, some of which is sourced from the greenhouses in Epcot. Ride Livin’ with the Land before or after your meal to complete the themed experience (and to learn something about your meal in the process!).

8. Sanaa, Boma, and Jiko – Of course no top 10 list would be complete without a bit of a cop-out. Each of these three restaurants has a distinct theme, but they’re all similar enough that we’re rolling them into one. Each of these restaurants have some great African art and design, with their own twists as to why they are compelling choices. Sanaa features a view of animals grazing on the savanna, Boma executes the mood and look of an African marketplace–and has delicious food, and Jiko has a more refined feel with brilliant lighting mimicking the sunset.

7. Coral ReefA divisive restaurant when it comes to food (we like it), there is no question that Coral Reef excels when it comes to atmosphere. The restaurant features tiered seating with one entire wall being a window into the large Living Seas tank. Disney claims this is the largest inland saltwater environment ever created, with more than 85 species of tropical fish. We recommend arriving early for your reservation (or, ideally, making a reservation for the very first seating of the day) and requesting a seat next to the tank. Even if you have to wait a little longer for a close view, it’s worth it. Coral Reef also has fish spotting guides to make the experience more fun!

6. Whispering Canyon Cafe – Whispering Canyon is an open-air restaurant offering views into the expansive lobby of the Wilderness Lodge, with some “Old West” design touches in the restaurant itself. It’s the service here, though, that is a spectacle in itself. The waiters and waitresses gently pick on guests, making meals a real hoot. Via Google, you can find some things to say that will typically cause a “reaction” from the wait staff, but we recommend that you just go in and let the act naturally unfold for you. Whispering Canyon Cafe also has some excellent American favorites. We recommend the Canyon Skillet.

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5. Hollywood Brown Derby – The first of three restaurants in the top 5 located in Disney’s Hollywood Studios (quite a feat for a park widely considered to have the worst dining, overall), the Hollywood Brown Derby makes the list for its mix of brilliant old hollywood charm and excellent cuisine, and because it’s a rare fine-dining experience inside a theme park. Hitting these three notes is what makes it one of our overall favorite Walt Disney World restaurants. Not only is the restaurant’s design themed after the original Hollywood Brown Derby, but the menu draws inspiration from the original, too. Talk about getting the details right!

4. Be Our Guest Restaurant – Added to the Magic Kingdom as part of the New Fantasyland expansion, Be Our Guest Restaurant puts guests inside Beast’s Castle. Be Our Guest Restaurant ranks highly for its special effects, including snowfall outside the ballroom, and falling rose petals in the beautifully designed (and spooky) west wing. We have only tried lunch, not dinner, at Be Our Guest, but unless dinner is an absolute disaster, Be Our Guest is firmly cemented as a top 5 restaurant thanks to its cool effects. If dinner turns out to excellent, Be Our Guest Restaurant might just leapfrog Biergarten and 50s Prime Time Cafe!

3. Biergarten – Every restaurant in the World Showcase at Epcot is well-themed, but the highlight of these is Biergarten. Themed to be a nighttime Bavarian Village, Biergarten celebrates Oktoberfest year round. Throughout the course of the meal, musicians perform traditional German songs and encourage guests to come to the dance floor to join in the fun. Offering authentic German buffets, Biergarten’s food has been good (not great) in our experience, but the atmosphere more than makes up for it.

2. 50′s Prime Time Cafe – My parents’ favorite restaurant at Walt Disney World when I was a kid, we always dined here on our annual trips. Here you’re dining in Mom’s house (and Mom has not updated the place since the 50s!), and by Mom’s rules. If you put your elbows on the table or slouch, expect to be reprimanded! Mom will, however, let you watch TV during your meal, and many classic sitcoms from the 1950s play on televisions at certain tables. 50′s Prime Time Cafe specializes in comfort food, with the highlight of the menu being the milkshakes. Even when we aren’t dining here, we frequently stop at the Tune-In Lounge to grab a quick milkshake!

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1. Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater – The easy number one pick for this list, Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater is the go-to restaurant for a themed dining experience at Walt Disney World. The dining area is a classic drive-in movie theater at night, complete with a large screen showing classic sci-fi B-movies from the 1950s. To complete the experience, the tables are classic 1950s cars! Another layer is piled on top of this, as the whole drive-in area is actually a hollywood set, making guests the star of whatever sci-fi B-movie is being filmed at the drive-in. It’s a story within a story! The main drive-in theme is fairly obvious (and awesome), but that extra layer of the movie set is something you’ll need to look for as you enter the lobby. Check out the various little details, such as labor law signs, that help pull this off. We love the food at Sci-Fi, which recently had its menu overhauled and is now decidedly better than it once was.

Honorable Mentions

As stated above, there are so many restaurants that have excellent themes that it’s difficult to narrow the list down to just ten restaurants (or in this case, twelve). Some restaurants that are notably absent are T-Rex Cafe, San Angel Inn, and Cinderella’s Royal Table. This is because we haven’t dined at any of these restaurants in recent years. Despite its cool theme, T-Rex Cafe is a no go for us. It’s run by Landry’s (the company behind Rainforest Cafe) and we’ve heard too many bad things about the food to give it a shot. Plus, it’s not unique to Walt Disney World (there’s one in Kansas City). San Angel Inn is a restaurant on our list of places to try, but it keeps getting bumped because we’ve also heard not-so-flattering things about the food. That said, it might be worth it just for the restaurant’s location along Gran Fiesta Tour. Finally, Cinderella’s Royal Table offers an incredible view and dining with princesses, but it’s insanely expensive due to the location. If you have young girls (we don’t), this restaurant would likely rank highly on your personal top 10 list, despite the price and so-so food.

Other honorable mentions that we like, but just couldn’t quite make the list include California Grill, ‘Ohana, Mama Melrose, and Yak & Yeti Restaurant.

Your Thoughts

With so many well-themed restaurants at Walt Disney World, there’s bound to be some disagreement on this one. Which restaurants would be in your top 10? Share which ones you think we missed and the ones you think we got spot-on in the comments!

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48 Responses to “Top 10 Best Themed Disney World Restaurants”

  1. George Potter says:

    I’m a huge San Angel Inn fan. I think any food that started as exotic and has gone mainstream becomes divisive. San Angel Inn is trying to serve two audiences and has some items on the menu that are very good representatives of Mexican food and some that falls into the Americanized, overstuffed, lots of cheese and sour cream type of fair. Choose badly and no matter what you think of as “Mexican food” you can end up disappointed. So, give it a spin but ask questions of your wait staff.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      “overstuffed, lots of cheese and sour cream type of fair.”

      …not that there’s anything wrong with that! At least, not normally. I am far from the biggest fan of authentic Mexican food, but I still wish that restaurants would stay true to their roots rather than Americanizing. Sadly, I think they do it out of necessity to appeal to unadventurous diners (who make up a lot of their business).

    • Preston says:

      San Angel Inn was always one of our favorite stops but the last two times we visited the food left much to be desired and probably would not go back, Sad for us since we always enjoyed it.

  2. I LOVED our Cinderella’s Royal Table experience. My husband and I (no kids) had a 9am reservation and it was wonderful walking into the park early. The breakfast was beautiful and delicious. There were other table with adults as well. I thought it was a lot prettier than the pictures I had seen online. Everything is decorated very castle-like. I love the experience where they announce you (Lord Robert and Lady Deborah) and they you wait and have your picture taken with Cinderella. Then you take the elevator/stairs up to the dining room – where we were seating next to one of those multipaned windows looking out over Fantasyland. We were served a bowl of fresh fruit cup, juice, danish rolls as well as our entree, coffee etc. It’s whatever you want.
    I realize it’s 2 table service meals per person – but well worth it.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it! We’ll probably continue to stay away, though. For the price, I’d rather do a true signature meal.

  3. Christy says:

    I love Sci-Fi. Not only is it really uniquely themed, it’s also the quietest restaurant in the whole dang resort. It’s dark and quiet…a refreshing treat for overstimulated eyes and ears!

  4. dr. john says:

    i agree with every pick, except whispering canyon. the old canyon skillet ain’t what she used to be.

  5. brandon says:

    i don’t have a comment on the article, i just wanted to say that i’m loving your blog more and more. you’ve really put in a lot of hard work to take it to the next level and it shows. we’re planning for our kids’ first trip in april and this site is invaluable. actually, i do have one comment…o’hana got jipped ;)

    of course that is just imho.

  6. daffystardust says:

    I went to some of these on my most recent trip.
    -50s Prime Time Cafe
    I ended up eating at the bar here. I’m not sure how different the experience is there, but I liked the themeing, the company was friendly, and the meatloaf was very satisfying. I would definitely go back.

    -Sci Fi Dine In
    The themeing is wonderful and my waiter was fun, but I found the hamburger I had there to be bland and tasteless. How do you ruin a hamburger? The milkshake was decent, though, so I’d probably go back if I was taking someone who’d never seen it before and we’d just get a milkshake, not a meal.

    -Brown Derby
    I’ve been here on a previous trip and really enjoyed the atmosphere and food. It’s a little pricy, but worth it if you’re there as a couple.

    -San Angel Inn
    My whole family seemed to really enjoy this place. The food and drinks I had were yummy and I personally like the deep themeing and dark atmosphere. I managed to skip the ride that goes through it yet again, so I’ve yet to see it from that perspective.

    -Be Our Guest
    I was able to do both lunch and dinner here and would probably rank it higher than you did. The grandness, details, good food, and current great value made it the top dining experience of this trip. We’ll see if any future menu or price changes takes a little of the glow off the place.

    -Yak & Yeti
    This will be a must-do for all future trips to Animal Kingdom. Everyone in my party had a delicious meal and the adult beverages were yummy too. The themeing inside is just okay, but I’m not sure what else could be done that would still feel seamless.

    good post. I will consider Biergarten for a future trip. I’ve avoided it up til now because I grew up going to the Festhaus at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and figured I should see something else.

  7. Excellent list… But… Plaza! One of MK’s more classy and subdued experiences. Solid menu, great views, honestly one of my favorites.

    • Tom Bricker says:

      As far as themed restaurants on Main Street go, I’d say The Plaza in the Magic Kingdom is the weakest of the ones I’ve experienced. Disneyland and Disneyland Paris both have multiple restaurants on Main Street that surpass it.

  8. Chris says:

    8 of your top 10 (as well as Cindarella’s Royal Table) are on our list for our Honeymoon this year.

  9. Stephanie says:

    My husband and I love love love San Angel Inn. The atmosphere is amazing, but their skirt steak is what keeps us coming back. We have a hard time saying No to San Angel Inn to try out Luther places. On our upcoming Feb. trip I’ve finally been able to talk hubby into trying someplace else and we’re going to see what “the best pizza in Disney” is all about at Via Napoli.
    Give San Angel in a try, and I recommend the skirt steak!!!

  10. Jeff says:

    The family and I ate at The Garden Grill last November for the first time. I appreciated the tie-in with Living with the Land, the character interaction, and initially the rotating platform.

    After a while though, I surprisingly started to experience some motion sickness. Typically, I am impervious to any sort of motion induced illness, but the Garden Grill got to me. By the end of our meal, I was a touch queasy and ready for the world to stop spinning. Perhaps it was where I was seated (facing out) so I noticed it more. I’m glad I did it once, but I doubt I would opt to experience it again.

    The only other restaurant I would include would be Restaurant Marrakesh. The inside is nicely themed and the belly dancer adds a unique touch.

  11. Ross B says:

    Nice list. Another vote for San Angel Inn here, it is one of my favorites. I also would have picked the Sci-Fi Dine-In as #1.

  12. Hiromi says:

    Everytime we go to the Mexico Pavilion, my daughter always wants to go to San Angel Inn. She is so in awe with how “romantic” it looks, (and she is only 8). San Angel is definitely on our must do list as well next time we go to WDW. Tom, I like how open and honest you are with all of your comments.

  13. Jerusha says:

    Tom, I hope you give San Angel a shot… It’s really one of the best dining experiences out there. I remember taking my other half there for the first time and he was so NOT thrilled. Not his type of food, nothing on the menu appealed to him, he was trying it only because of me. The appetizer came out and he was hooked… We now HAVE to go every trip, it’s his first (and favorite) place. I know there’s a lot of bad reviews and, honestly, before the big changeover in 2010/2011, it totally earned the bad buzz. When I went in 2007, it was practically inedible, and that’s something that most people remember. When you hear what the post-changeover reviews are, though, people are generally very positive, with the big complaints being that the tables are too close and it’s a little dark and can be loud.

  14. Matt says:

    I had heard and read rave reviews of Prime Time and Sci-Fi, but I found them both to be mediocore. So much of a persons experience can be dictated by the waitstaff. Maybe that was our problem with those two experiences.
    To add a restaurant from our top 5, would be Akurhaus. We do have two young ladies in our party, but I also feel the food is nice. Sixth trip this July!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      A lot of people like 50s Prime Time and Sci-Fi, but a lot of people dislike them, too. I’m not too surprised to hear that you didn’t enjoy them, especially if your service was poor.

  15. Lisa says:

    Cinderella’s Castle for lunch is a must-do for us. In the past, the food was not good at all and so we spent years skipping it. Last year, my son really wanted to go into the castle so we made reservations not expecting much (kinda like you guys and your second Coral Reef visit). Man were we surprised! The food has gotten much better and my son (4 years old at the time) was a huge hit since he was the only little boy without some kind of a sister there. If you don’t have kids, it may not be best. But if you do a breakfast, you can get great empty park pics with great views!

  16. Susan says:

    We, kids included, love San Angel Inn for the food and the atmosphere. Whispering Canyon is another definite top pick of ours. My son absolutely loves this place!

    • Tom Bricker says:

      We recently had a chance to eat at San Angel Inn and we really enjoyed it. The ambiance was great, as was the food!

  17. Michelle says:

    I appreciate your list. Some of the top 10 we haven’t tried, but will be there in December and I’m going to try to switch up our reservations. Our favorite Disney restaurant is definitely Ohana. Just thinking about the bread pudding makes my mouth water. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  18. BostonBoB says:

    Great article EXCEPT – - – Your #1 pick wouldn’t even make my list. I hated the Sci-Fi restaurant both times I ate there. Because the tables are cars, you don’t get to have a family conversation. It is so quiet there because know one faces each other. The food is mediocre at best and priced higher than virtually the same food at different restaurants. The idea of this restaurant is fun, the execution of it is not. It does not meet Disney’s standards for fun with family, but does allow pretending to have fun while ignoring your family.

    • Sarah Beth says:

      Last time I went to the Sci-fi (last year) they had updated the “cars” and some were family style stretch cars so everyone could face each other

  19. Jessica says:

    We enjoyed Coral Reef but with our large party it was hard to seat us together (there were 8 of us). Food was great though! My absolute favorite for food was Yak & Yeti. Seriously the best meal of my life. I’d love to see a list where you rank the top 10 based on the food alone!

  20. Rosie says:

    We are eating at Sci- Fi and Biergarten in December! I have been to Sci-Fi before, but my husband hasn’t. I figured it was a good meal to have before looking at the Osborne Lights. We booked Biergarten for the lunch package for the Candlelight Processional with Neil Patrick Harris. Neither of us has eaten there before, but it sounds like it’s going to be a winner!

  21. Michelle says:

    My family loves the Tusker House character breakfast. The kids love the theme and characters, and the adults appreciate the variety available in their buffet. And we all love entering the park before it officially opens so we can be first in line when the ropes drop!

  22. Nate says:

    Add me to the list of people who really liked San Angel Inn. The homemade tortilla chips are awesome and they were very accommodating to my wife who has a gluten allergy by making her corn tortilla wraps (presumedly out of the same thing the chips are made from) for her fish tacos instead of the normal flour ones. I had the carne asada which, while actual new york strip steak, is no new york strip steak, but good nonetheless.

    Our server was awesome as well and even offered to take a picture of my wife and me in front of the pyramid (he did a pretty good job too…even without using a tripod in such a dark environment).

    The Yak and Yeti, which we ate ate for the first time, was also very good. I thought the themeing was very good with all the little details, right down to the cracked tiles in the table design. Part of the ambiance (I think) was helped by the fact that we had ADR’s for 4:45PM, right before the park closed. Thus, there weren’t a lot of people there, so I imagined that its desolate rooms were similar to a riverside restaurant in Myanmar.

    In any case, the food was also very good & the Safari Amber Ale (which they said was exclusive to Yak & Yeti, but who ever knows if that’s true) was delicious. However, the chicken for the lettuce cups was a little too salty for my tastes. It must’ve been all that Landry’s seasoning. ;-)

    I guess where I’m going with all of this is that some of these honorable mention restaurants might be worthy of expanding the “Best Themed Restaurants” list to 12 or 15. :-)

  23. Bob Hawkins says:

    Go ahead and try trex and rainforest if you haven’t in awhile. Landrys is a great company. The food is not remarkable but pretty good and decently priced compared to Disney prices and Orlando area chains. My kids love the Dino interaction and atmosphere plus the build a Dino. I agree with comments that do atmosphere San angel is nice as well. I guess it words on what meal and what we consider themed as well because for me they a&e all themed including tusker house and all the nations as well as the resorts and the accompanying restaurants. Obama is awesome all the way around grand Floridian options are nice as well. CRT is n experience in itself and a must do at least once. Just my 2 cents

  24. Rob Stang says:

    You left off the best steak in the entire state of Florida at Le Cellier!! Food and wine this year I probably had the steak bites 6 out of 7 trips!

  25. Annette Rawlings says:

    I agree with the vast majority of what you have stated HOWEVER we ate at San Angel Inn and were’t impressed with the food at all. Don’t know who gave you the bum steer about T-Rex and Rainforest Cafe food, we have eaten there many many times and it is a must go-to every time we visit, love them both – yes I know they aren’t Disney owned but your story is about Themed Restaurants at Disney and both of them are AT Disney (either DTD or AK).

    • Tom Bricker says:

      I’m not a huge fan of other Rainforest Cafes we’ve visited outside of Walt Disney World. However, T-Rex is more unique, so I think we probably ought to give it a chance. Thanks for the tip! :)

  26. kwoleson says:

    I have eaten at Biergarten several times and loved it each time. The atmosphere is great as is the food. One you missed is the very expensive, yet incredible Yachtsman Steak House at the Yacht and Beach Club resort. Best steak I ever ate. Going back next week! I would only consider this if you are on the dining plan or do not have a huge party as it is pricy.

  27. Julie says:

    Just returned from WDW and we had the opportunity to eat at a variety of restaurants. Our favorite was Le Cellier! Great food and service. The one we liked least was Sci-Fi Cafe. My food was not good and the atmosphere was strange, not fun. Be Our Guest was delicious too. I’ve never been disappointed with anything at The Polynesian. Jiko was good but over priced. Boma was great for breakfast.

    • Sarah Beth says:

      The first time I went to the Sci-fi was for my High-school senior trip, our server was poor and the food just so/so. I went back last year and it was amazing the change, our server was incredible and they had the best options for my allergy (gluten). My husband I went to the Sci-Fi twice we loved it so much and we even asked if we could have the same waiter and we did (though we had to wait an extra 20mins)!

  28. Sarah Beth says:

    Have you been to Katsura Grill in Epcot (Japan) it’s a quick-service so I’m not sure it would qulaify for this list, but you are surrounded by Japanese gardens while you eat outside. They also play live Japanese drums every hour if you time you meal just right you can hear them!

  29. Luann says:

    I must disagree with a few of your negative choices. T- Rex is absolutely one of our favorites. The service and food were terrific both of our visits. San angel was also very good and service terrific. Cinderella’s royal table is a must do for everyone . The food was delicious and service good as well . It is ridiculously expensive , but doable with the dining plan. Coral reef was fun and sci- fi cool also, but I don’t remember either food to be outstanding. Ohanas hands down delicious and themed. Should be in your list for sure. Just my opinion.

  30. Dee says:

    My vote is “Be Our Guest”…… the BEST. Have been to several others, live nearby and have visited often.

    The attention to detail, the décor AND the food is all just top notch, the very BEST.

  31. Trisha says:

    I have to say that Le Cellier at Epcot is one of our favorite restaurants at Disney. Yes, it’s within Canada so the “theming” is not as elaborate as other places, but the food is amazing and the service is equally so. It’s a must for my hubby and I when we visit.

  32. Michele says:

    We love Tusker House at Animal Kingdom. The buffet offers many unique choices. It’s a nice change from lots of the same kind of meals. We will go there every time from now on. Bonus if you have little kids- Characters are also there.

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